Publisher’s Note: Originally posted in 2018, this story was updated on November 19, 2020. Recycling options for Styrofoam™ blocks are no longer available in Cuyahoga County.
December is packed with festive gift-giving occasions and that means tons more trash and recycling. According to The Recycling Partnership, Americans generate 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than at any other time of year. Cardboard containers, paperboard boxes, wrapping paper, metal tins, and Styrofoam™ packing materials all are part of the holiday recycling conundrum. Make sure you know which items are naughty and which are nice when it comes to making your home green for the holidays.
Holiday Recycling Best Practices
Recycle all cardboard and paperboard. With more and more online shopping every year, the amount of cardboard that arrives at our homes is increasing. Cardboard is highly valuable and can be recycled five to seven times. Make sure to empty and flatten your boxes for pickup and only set them out in dry weather or in a closed recycling receptacle. Remember to remove all packing materials but don’t worry about tape or labels as those will come off during the recycling process.
Wrapping paper and boxes that are 100 percent paper can be recycled. Recycle the cards and wrappings with your regular curbside collection or take it to a local paper drop-off bin. Plain paper, butcher paper, corrugated cardboard, and gift bags without decorations can also be recycled. If the wrapping paper has foil or is sparkly or shiny, it cannot be recycled. Place it in the trash, Also, do not include photos, foil, plastic coating, ribbon, tinsel, bows, and glitter in recycling. Learn more about recycling paper and boxes.
Styrofoam™ Packing Materials
Styrofoam™ is hard to recycle because it takes up so much space relative to its weight, and few markets exist. Do not place Styrofoam™ in your curbside recycling. Styrofoam™ blocks and Styrofoam™ peanuts should be disposed of in the regular trash. There are no recycling options at this time; collection programs at retail stores no longer exist. Instead, consider a reuse project at home or place them in the regular trash for disposal.
Tin Gift Boxes
Tin gift boxes that usually contain cookies and holiday treats are not recyclable at the curb. Find a reuse project, recycle it at a scrap metal yard, or place it in the trash for disposal.
Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. Your tree does not belong in curbside recycling with your newspapers and bottles, but you can still recycle your tree. Many cities offer programs to turn your tree into mulch or wood chips. Call your city service department or trash hauler for more information or find details for your community.
Local farms will accept Christmas trees as animal feed. For the safety of the animals, all decorations, tinsel, ornaments, and lights must be removed. On the east side, contact Kelly’s Working Well Farm, 16495 S. Franklin Street in Chagrin Falls (440/247-7825) for donation details. On the west side, drop off trees at Stearns Homestead, 6975 Ridge Road in Parma (place undecorated trees in the front pasture along the fence).
Local compost and yard waste facilities accept trees and other yard waste for recycling. See a list of registered compost facilities.
For more holiday recycling tips check out 11 Tips to Recycle the Holidays.